On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the much-anticipated case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. The Justices will decide whether a 2013 Texas law which looks to lead to a drastic reduction of abortion clinics in the state will be upheld or repealed. How long will the Supreme Court hear the abortion case? Well, they already have. Arguments for and against the case were heard in one day, but it will likely be months before we get a decision.
The decision isn't likely to come until late June. This case is a huge deal for reproductive rights, since the type of restrictions being contested are present in several other states, and the ruling will affect them all. The restrictions in question posed by the 2013 law require abortion clinics to meet the criteria established for "ambulatory surgical centers," and that physicians providing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of clinics where abortions take place. These restrictions may reduce the number of abortion clinics in Texas from 40 to six, according to The Atlantic.
A lot hangs in the balance during these four-or-so months while the Court decides. A Guttmacher Institute report from 2015 explained that 22 states require abortion clinics to meet "ambulatory surgical center" standards. Think Progress reported that meeting these requirements often involve expensive renovations, including the construction of janitor's closets and the widening of hallways. These would apply even to centers providing medication abortions as opposed to more invasive procedures. The Guttmacher Institute also reported that four other states require physicians performing abortions to have local hospital admitting privileges.
With Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death in February, the Supreme Court is left with only eight members, meaning a split decision is possible. If the Court is split, the lower Texas court's decision will be upheld and the law will remain in place. According to The Los Angeles Times, four Justices made it clear during Wednesday's arguments that they are against the Texas requirements, while three defended them and one seemed to be on the fence. The arguments only lasted one hour on Wednesday, according to The LA Times, but we'll probably be in suspense until June over this. The Justices will have significantly more time to formulate their opinions on the case than they did to hear arguments on it.